Evolution of a gag reflex

Me, four months old — across-the-room projectile vomiting so severely my mother handed me to the pediatrician at a well baby visit and said, "Please. fix. this. child."

At five years old — after surgery to have tubes put in my ears and my adenoids removed, my father was carrying me in his arms down the hall of the hospital so we could go home.  I cried, "I’m going to be sick!" and I remember my dad very charitably put his cupped hand out for me to throw up in.  Wasn’t enough.  Can I possibly be remembering correctly that the hospital halls were carpeted?  Doesn’t seem possible.

At seven years old — at my grandparent’s house, eating a sandwich with some sort of lunchmeat that had an inedible wrapper around the outside (what was that all about?), and realizing that I’d swallowed part of what was now a long string of plasticky whatever, but that I was also holding the other end of it between my fingers. . . I was sure I was going to die, but instead I just threw up.  Violently.  Repeatedly.  Horribly.

I still have bad dreams about that incident.

At nine years old — my hands were full, so I put one of the things I was carrying (a small plastic keychain fob) in my mouth.   I bit too far into the middle of it, and puked all over the place.

There’s more, but I’m going to bring us up to speed.  Just to paint the proper backdrop, I should say that I have always been a sympathetic barfer.  If I see, smell, hear, or sometimes just imagine another person vomiting, I’m right there, hurling along.  It’s not a desirable quality in a mother of four, but apparently over the years of cleaning up other peoples’ sick, I’ve toughened up some.   

This morning — Willow clutching her tummy, "Ouch.  It Huuuuuurrrrrrts.  Mommy Ow Ow Ow."  Me — are you going to throw up, honey?  Let’s go to the bathroom

So, we went and sat on the edge of the bathtub.  Willow in my lap, pale and wan and clammy.  She rallied, though, after some water with ice.  Hooray!

Five thirty tonight — I picked up the kids from my friend’s house and we went to Subway for a sammich supper (well, not me, since there aren’t gluten & dairy free things in a Subway).  Sophie got a salami sandwich with olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which she — predictably — didn’t really eat much of.  She did drink her chocolate milk and eat her cookies.  And the tomatoes off her sandwich.  Within moments of "finishing" her meal, she started in with the "my tummy huuuuuuurrrrrrtttts Moooommmmmmmyyyyyy."


I was hoping that this was an attention ploy, since Willow had stopped all activity with her bellyache earlier in the day.  But, then she asked to be naked, so her tummy could feel cold.  She also wanted a cold bath, and she kept giving me the puppy eyes.  She isn’t a good faker; she laughs too much.  Only, she wasn’t laughing.  At all.  I gave her a warmed up wheat bag and an ice pack, since she requested both hot and cold to put on her belly.  She sat on the kitchen floor, after I’d swept and while I was folding laundry, nursing a sippy cup of water. 

If you have kids, you *know* when they are going to barf.  There’s some sort of weird combo of movement and facial expression (it’s an odd chest-heaving and very alarmed-looking, bugged-out eyes for Soph) that tells you you’ve got about three seconds to relocate to the bathroom.

We did make it.  But, even though Sophie was standing directly in front of the toilet, she hurled everywhere but.  Don’t get me wrong here, the toilet was covered, and then some, in vomit, but as far as hitting the flushable water part?  Yeah — not so much. 

She was remarkably clean, so I helped her wash her face and brush her teeth and rinse her mouth.  I got her settled on the couch with a pillow, blanket, and tupperware bowl in case there was more, and I went back to survey the bathroom.


Seriously.  The wall, shower curtain, floor, trash can, every surface of the toilet, and the plunger (which, a) is totally gross enough already, thanks, and b) was right next to the toilet because my kids *love*the flushable wipes but don’t get the one or two at a time concept and so the toilet often needs a little hand holding) were COVERED in gooey, tomato-y puke.

Aaaaaah.  Scary! 

I went and fetched my weapons: paper towels and Mrs. Myer’s Clean Day Spray.  Now, this whole thing was complicated by something.  We rent, or else I’d have taken care of this LONG AGO.  The hall bathroom floor is rotten.  Like, if you push down with your foot around the tub or toilet, it’s totally spongy and one day one of my kids is going to fall through the bathroom floor into the crawl space.  I know it.  I’ve told the landlord several times, but apparently it isn’t a priority.  (That means it will cost Actual Cash Dollars to repair.)  The thing is, the linoleum around the base of the toilet is sunken in.  Like, the base of the toilet is not flush with the floor.  And, I was crouched down with my spray and my new roll of paper towels, facing the fact that there was going to be barf under the toilet until the time that we get a new floor.  It may be forever. 

I started wiping and spraying and wiping some more.  I saw and touched parts of the toilet that aren’t meant to be discovered.  About ten seconds into this two thoughts crossed my mind: 1) I need to go get that glass of Ravenswood Chardonnay I just poured myself, and 2) I can’t believe I’m not barfing!

I have turned a corner.  Not only did I not vomit myself when I had to take the toilet seat OFF the base of the toilet and wash it off with a sponge in the bathtub, I took frequent breaks to sip my wine.  And, once, to twitter this message "SOS barf everywhere.  send mr. clean." 

It’s official: I am a grizzled vetran mother who can clean up, as Jeff Foxworthy says, messes that would gag the rotorooter man. 

Score one for me.  And while you’re at it, thank me for not following up on my fleeting thought that I should photograph the carnage to share with you.

9 thoughts on “Evolution of a gag reflex

  1. Marsha

    I too have toughened up after becoming a mom. I think that comes from the knowledge that you are going to have to clean up whatever comes out. I hope the girls feel better and it doesn’t spread to the boys.

  2. marian

    We had a plastic bucket that we called “the puke bucket.” Quick, get the puke bucket! I gave up on the whole puke in the toilet thing early on. Such folly.

    anyway — carpeted hospitals. When I was a nurse, in the 70s, carpeting hospital hallways was all the rage. Supposed to keep down airborn transmission of pathogens. It was quite disgusting, as you can well imagine. Smelled great, too.

  3. Ali

    Thank you for the lack of photographic evidence! I have one child who at 3 almost always makes it to the toilet when he barfs and another who at almost 7 seems not to recognise what’s coming and pukes all over everything but.


  4. jenijen

    Marsha–thanks! So far, so good with the containment. I swear cleaning up after Soph didn’t phase me. I was just thinking that at least she ate the tomatoes off her sandwich!

    Marian — we, too, have a barf bowl. i thought that she was faking and didn’t have it at the ready. when will i ever learn?

    thanks for confirming the carpet in the hospital. i thought i must’ve been ill from the anesthesia and remembering it all wrong!

    Ali — you’re welcome 😉 one out of two, i guess!

  5. Heather B.

    Another reason for why I’d make a terrible mother; I almost vomited while reading that. Lord only knows what experiencing that in person would do to me.

    My vomit history includes two priceless moments on the school bus. Lovely.

  6. Kimmie


    Lordy….all those things from your childhood? I have those. My vivid one is being at school in the morning with all the other kids waiting for the doors to open. I was wearing my knitty mittens. UGH!

    I think I’ve toughened up a little being a mom. Last winter’s puke fest didn’t effect me nearly as much as the year before’s. LOL.

  7. kayla

    Ooooohhh. I’ve had to deal with one of those Exorcist type vomits before – a hot afternoon, too much cake and ice cream at a party, and then DH picking the victim up by the ankles and shaking him while horsing around. I’ve never seen so much vomit before, and, similarly, almost none of it made it into the toilet.


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